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UN envoy urges probe into death of South Korean protestor

A UN rights envoy has called for an independent investigation into the death of a South Korean protester, shot by police water cannon during an anti-government rally last year.



Seoul: A UN rights envoy has called for an independent investigation into the death of a South Korean protester, shot by police water cannon during an anti-government rally last year.

Baek Nam-Ki, a 69-year-old farmer, died Sunday after falling into a coma last November when he was hit by a water cannon used by police during a massive protest against Seoul`s labour policies.

His plight has sparked widespread outrage with the police coming under fire for what critics describe as excessive use of force during public rallies. UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai voiced "dismay" over Baek`s death in a statement published late Wednesday, calling for a probe to punish those responsible. 

"I call for a full and independent investigation into the police`s use of water cannon during the rally ... that unambiguously led to (his) death according to video footage available," Kiai said. 

"The perpetrators should be held accountable and the family of Mr. Baek receive appropriate compensation; in addition, adequate measures must be taken to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future," he said. 

The protests on November 14 -- involving more than 60,000 people -- led to violent clashes with police, who sprayed water cannons and pepper spray at demonstrators, injuring dozens.

Baek`s family and the police have been locked in a dispute with officials pushing for an autopsy to determine cause of death. 

Family members have refused, accusing the police of trying to shrug off responsibility and build the case that Baek`s death occurred due to diseases he previously suffered.

"The police already has his full medical records for (the) past 10 months ... and we don`t want his body to be touched by the police that killed him in the first place," the family said in a statement.

Police and prosecutors Wednesday received a warrant from a court, allowing them to carry out an autopsy, but family members and hundreds of supporters are staking out the hospital in Seoul to block any attempts to take the body. 

Critics say freedoms have been eroded under President Park Geun-Hye, daughter of Park Chung-Hee, a general turned authoritarian leader who ruled the country for 18 years until he was assassinated in 1979.

Park`s conservative government is facing mounting resentment over a range of issues including a push to impose new history textbooks on schools and plans to reform the labour market, making it easier for firms to fire workers.

From Zee News

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